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Victorian Opera follows up its adventurous 2017 season with a programme of the rarely-heard and frankly beautiful: Rossini’s William Tell receives its Australian premiere, Jessica Pratt and Caitlin Hulcup are Bellini’s starcrossed lovers in The Capulets and the Montagues, Debussy’s Pelleas and Melisande gets a hearing, and VO celebrates its twentieth new work with the world premiere of cabaret-opera Lorelei. The young and young at heart will also delight in the return of two beloved works, The Magic Pudding – The Opera and Hansel and Gretel.
Pelleas and Melisande. Image: supplied.
“The theatre is a special meeting place where not only audiences and performers but also past and present meet through the rendering of a masterwork”, says Artistic Director Richard Mills. “I want to offer audiences a point of difference, the joy of discovery and a chance to encounter something marvellous”.
Kicking off the season are two operas suitable for the young and young at heart. In celebration of the 100th birthday of Norman Lindsay’s beloved storybook, Calvin Bowman and Anna Goldsworthy’s The Magic Pudding – The Opera returns in its original production by Cameron Menzies. If that hasn’t quite sated your appetite, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel also returns in June, with the resourceful siblings played by Shakira Dugan and Cleo Lee-McGowan.
Picking up on the theme of adventure, Rossini’s final opera William Tell comes to our shores in a new production by Rodula Gaitanou in July. Canadian baritone Jean-François Lapointe, a seasoned Tell, heads an ensemble cast that includes Paolo Pecchioli as Gesler, Carlos E. Bárcenas as Arnold, Liane Keegan as Hedwige, Jeremy Kleeman as Walter, and Gisela Stille as Mathilde. “Victoria Opera is thrilled to present the Australian premiere of Rossini’s epic – his finest opera”, says Mills. “This is a logical extension of Victorian Opera’s expertise in and involvement with bel canto repertoire that has been established through our performances of Bellini and Donizetti”.
Bellini gets another outing this year with The Capulets and the Montagues, the final instalment in VO’s concert series dedicated to the composer. Often overshadowed by Gounod’s opera, this gem of the bel canto repertoire requires two great singers to play the young lovers. VO has certainly delivered on this front with the return of superstar soprano Jessica Pratt as Giulietta and the distinguished mezzo Caitlin Hulcup as Romeo. Mills conducts the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in this meltingly gorgeous work.
The theme of forbidden love returns with Debussy’s only opera, Pelleas and Melisande. A masterpiece whose musical and dramatic antecedents can be located in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, it tells the story of a fraught love triangle through some of the most potent music of the 20th century. The title roles are here played by rising star Siobhan Stagg, who makes her role debut as the troubled Melisande alongside veteran Pelleas Angus Wood. Samuel Dundas is the jealous Golaud, with David Parkin as the ponderous Arkel and Liane Keegan as Genevieve. “2018 is the 100th anniversary of Debussy’s death and this, his only major opera, is a unique gem. It is not often performed and unlike any other opera in the repertoire”, says Mills.
Reaffirming once again the company’s commitment to the future of opera, the world premiere of Lorelei closes out the season. From composers Julian Langdon, Casey Bennetto and Gillian Cosgriff, it receives its first outing in a production by Sarah Giles. Described as “part cabaret, part opera, all seduction”, it features singers Ali McGregor, Antoinette Halloran and Dimity Shepherd in this tale of ancient myth meets modern woman.